Border guards were deployed in 22 districts following tensions over reported desecration of the Quran in Cumilla, attacks on Hindu temples in several places.
Police on Thursday said they had arrested 43 people in Cumilla and Chattogram for instigating attacks on temples and vandalism. There have been reports of such police arrests in other districts too, as Hasan Mahmud said the government is committed to ensuring exemplary punishment for the attackers.
"As part of a plot, the Cumilla incident was carried out to incite communal violence in other places," Anwar Hossain, deputy inspector general of police (Chattogram Range), told journalists while visiting the temple yesterday.
Meanwhile, Information and Broadcasting Minister Hasan Mahmud yesterday assured Hindu devotees that the government stands by them so that they can observe Durga Puja without any fear.
"I urge the Hindu community to observe Durga Puja without any fear since the government and the people stand by you," Information and Broadcasting Minister Hasan Mahmud said yesterday while talking to journalists at the Secretariat in Dhaka.
He said the situation was under control.
On Wednesday, a reported besmirching of the holy Quran stoked communal tensions in Cumilla. The incident sparked a storm on social media as temples and puja celebrations came under attack in several districts.
Four people died in a mob-police clash in Chandpur's Hajiganj on Wednesday night. Subsequently, Section 144 was imposed in Hajiganj and BGB personnel were deployed.
Apart from Cumilla and Chandpur, media reports suggest puja celebration in Chattogram's Banshkhali and Karnaphuli, Cox's Bazar's Pekua, Moulvibazar's Kamalganj and Kulaura, and Chapai Nawabganj's Shibganj upazila were also attacked.
"The commentary on Facebook live made from the area of the temple was very provocative. Police have arrested the individual who posted the video on Facebook and he is being interrogated," DIG Anwar Hossain said at a media briefing.
Earlier, local ruling Awami League leaders and several teams of police, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), Police Bureau of Investigation (PBI), Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) visited the temple.
BGB Director (Operations) Lieutenant Colonel Faizur Rahman said border troopers have been deployed in 22 districts until Thursday in aid of the local administration.
"Additional BGB members will be deployed in other districts, including Dhaka, if needed," he told The Business Standard on Thursday.
In a separate development, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal said law enforcers have identified some individuals over the Cumilla incident, and they will be arrested soon, reports BSS.
"Some have already been detained for quizzing," said the minister.
In the meantime, Citizens for Good Governance (SHUJAN) and Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK) — two civil society platforms — deplored the Cumilla temple attack and renewed their call for communal harmony to be restored.
Social media posts at it again
The Cumilla incident, based on a Facebook post fuelling communal tensions, is not the first instance of its kind in the country.
In 2012, the homes and temples of Cox's Bazar's Buddhist community in Ramu were ransacked after a photo on social media was circulated that reportedly indicated the "demeaning of the Holy Quran". As many as 12 local temples and 30 houses were set on fire during the violence.
In 2016, Hindu-Muslim violence on a massive scale and ransacking of Hindu houses took place in Brahmanbaria's Nasirnagar centring a Facebook post.
In 2017, attacks, arson and vandalism were let loose on Hindu communities in Rangpur's Gangachara.
In 2020, rumours spread through Facebook triggered religious violence in Cumilla's Muradpur and Homna. Similarly, in Pabna's Santhia and Satkhira's Fatehpur religious tensions flared through social media posts.a